We get our water from the local stream almost half a mile from us. The water comes down a 1″ plastic pipe and flows through the forest and along a few sea-side cliffs to eventually exit at our place. We have a cistern which collects the flow and, most of the time the cistern is full. The stream still runs even in late August with a hot summer behind us. It runs low. But it runs.
Winter, of course, is different. You can (and we do) have frozen pipes sometimes. Usually in the dead of January. We have broken or kinked pipes, too, when the volume is so great that the flow ‘messes’ with the pipe. The big rainfall a few days ago was considerable and the stream was engorged to capacity the day after. It dropped a few trees on itself and it crumpled up the pipe as well as filling the pick-up valve with pine needles. Not for the first time this year, but for the first time this winter, water stopped flowing downhill and Sal went up to fix it.
That was day one.
Sal hiked up the hill after taking her small boat into the bay and wading ashore. She climbed the steep, muddy, overgrown trail that skirted the stream and sometimes disappeared into the water for a few yards until she had gained about 120 feet of elevation. She looked into the raging cauldron of water where the little collection pool exists and the pick-up valve sits weighted to the bottom under a few rocks. The only way to clear the pick-up was to stand on the lowest side of the pool (itself under two feet of extra water at that time) and then kneel down and reach into the pool and pull out the pipe and pick-up for examination. In this case the exercise would require virtual submersion into a fast flowing stream. Sal prepared to do that by first taking off the top half of her wet-weather clothing, warm-layer fleece underneath and finally all but her bra. Standing water proof from the waist down and Amazonian from the waist up, she reached underwater, grabbed the pipe and wrenched it free from the bottom. Imagine the cold!
After clearing the pipe of needles and replacing it in the pool, she donned her gear and came home. Sadly, the water still did not not flow. So, day two saw us heading up together and our neighbours came along to see the set-up and give a hand.
Here’s the deal: it is basically impossible to remain dry regardless of your preparations when working with a stream in full flow and doing so in the wilds on collapsing banks while climbing very steep sides over deadfall and attempting to clear a partially buried pipe. So, after filling our boots – literally – it was just one big water fest as we all tumbled, stumbled, clawed, crawled and scrambled up and down the stream for a couple of hours looking for the problem. Average age of the four of us: 66-68.
But we found two possible sites that proved to be the culprits. One was a where a deadfall had crushed the pipe and dragged it under water pinching it closed in the process. And the other was a pinch where the flow was so strong at some point that it had folded the pipe back on itself. We waded in. We had tools. We cut out the crimps. We fixed them with new connectors and we went back down to check out the system where we had some valves installed midway down for that very purpose. We were successful. The water was flowing. And we were heading home.
When we got to the beach, the tide was out and the buffet of oysters was in, so both couples collected dinner before heading for the warmth of our wood stoves. It was a good day. A bit wet. But good..
You should have been there. .